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Dr. Michael Forster

Students recognize public investment as key to community

Yesterday I wrapped up a graduate course in community development and social planning.  The closing assignment for each student was a 10-page paper envisioning a physical community that reflects social work values and commitments.

The range of community concepts was, predictably, wide – from smallish Spartan rural enclaves to upscale high-density metropolitan neighborhoods.  Yet there was a remarkable consistency in the priority concerns identified for any successful and sustainable community, with a common theme that public investment is essential to ensuring quality of life.

Where should public investment flow? Topping the list – Health care, universally available to all.  Education, free, unlimited, and continuous.  Economic development that features small businesses, applies smart regulation to big ones, and fosters social capital formation (i.e. bonds of trust and solidarity).  Physical infrastructure – roads and bridges, yes, but also public works (e.g. parks and plazas) and public beautification.

Without serious and steady investment in these areas, say our future social work leaders, the future is bleak.  If only our elected state and national leaders were blessed with the same insight.

Dr. Michael Forster

Apparently no stopping ACA haters

The zombie Obamacare haters just won’t stop coming, no matter how many times they die.  Here’s what’s driving this malicious health care “reform” effort: A president who by turns seems incompetent beyond belief, just plain evil, and/or on a steady slide toward dementia; and a majority Republican Senate, walking on the thinnest legislative razor’s edge imaginable (“Hey, Mr. V.P., we need you to break another tie vote!”), evidently unconcerned that the vast majority of Americans unequivocally reject what they’re trying to do – i.e. strip tens of millions of Americans of health care insurance coverage.  Obamacare may be deeply flawed (by design it was largely a giveaway to the insurance industry, in my view), but it’s a damned sight better than what the political right is peddling.

In case you missed it: Mississippi senators Cochran and Wicker, supposedly “representing” some of the poorest and most health-compromised people in the USA, both voted Tuesday night for an amendment to repeal the Affordable Care Act with nothing (except ensuing market chaos) to replace it with.  Oh my, we desperately need new leadership, social workers.

Dr. Michael Forster

It’s time for single-payer universal health care coverage

Social workers – Isn’t it time to recognize that a single-payer universal-coverage health care system is the way to go?  Republicans were right to argue that the Affordable Care Act (“Obamacare”) was and remains a deeply flawed approach to addressing Americans’ health needs. But they were badly off the mark in thinking – as their recent legislative debacle amply demonstrated – that the ACA could be rapidly “repealed and replaced” with something palatable to the American public.

We seem to have turned a big corner on accepting the single payer concept.  In part due to the robust Sanders run for the presidential nomination, in part because of sheer Republican stupidity in trying to strip millions of insurance coverage, while simultaneously capping Medicaid funding and handing the wealthy a handsome tax cut, single-payer is presently enjoying a surge in popularity.  Articles acknowledging its feasibly are popping up with increasing frequency in unlikely places, including The Atlantic Monthly and Harvard Business Review.

A pro-single-payer position will not be popular with Mississippi’s political leadership.  Indeed, no public program perceived to benefit the “undeserving” is likely to ever gain their support.  But that is of minor consequence.  Stereotypes aside, our profession’s commitment is to justice, not mealy-mouthed “niceness.”  Ethically, single-payer universal coverage is far more just than the mess of a pseudo-system that we have now; pragmatically, it is the way of the future.  It’s high time we take a firm stance on the right side of history.

Dr. Michael Forster

Trump will go, then what?

As the Russia connection probes intensify following the first hard evidence of collusion between the Trump campaign and Russian disruptors, we can for the first time realistically envision the end of the hateful Trump presidency.  But let’s not break out the champagne just yet.  Three concerns suggest we keep the bubbly corked for the time being.

First, Trump is dangerous on a good day; under pressure of losing the biggest branding prize of his “winner” life, he’s likely to grow increasingly less rational.  A master of creating and manipulating confusion and chaos, as commander in chief he has weapons (literally as well as figuratively) galore at his disposal with which to distract attention from his troubles.

Second, the shocking Trump electoral victory only seemed to come out of nowhere.  In fact, this “insane clown president” (as per journalist Matt Talibbi) is the despicable product of a dysfunctional political system that has grown more detached from the majority of Americans’ interests with each electoral cycle.  As John Ralston Saul has put it, we’ve undergone a “corporate coup d’etat in slow motion.”  Trump’s departure from the White House would in itself do nothing to alter the vicious pro-corporate, pro-rich agenda of the right.

Third, progressives (by which I mean all who believe in and strive to expand democracy and economic/social justice, including social workers) have yet to articulate an alternative agenda capable of capturing the hearts and minds of a majority of citizens.  To be sure there is energetic anti-Trump “resistance” all about, but to date there’s no unifying vision of the world we want to replace the current one with.   We need resistance, yes, but resistance alone is not enough.

Dr. Michael Forster

Social worker Kathryn Rehner is running for the Mississippi House

How many times have you heard it, and maybe said it yourself? “Social workers need to run for political office, with support from other social workers.” Putting social workers in office committed to addressing the needs of all, and not just the elite, helps fulfill our ethical commitment to push for economic and social justice.  It’s our best hope of advancing sound social welfare policy, and protecting what safety net programs we have against mounting threats from the political right.

Well, guess what?  There’s a social worker running right now for the Mississippi House of Representatives, District 102 – the seat vacated by Toby Barker when he became the new mayor of Hattiesburg.  Five candidates have declared candidacy so far for the September 12 special election, but only one social worker, Kathryn Rehner – https://www.facebook.com/KathrynRehner102/.

Time to get busy, social workers, in showing support for one of our own.  Time to walk the walk.